Pharmacy locum Simranjit Jhita talks to Saša Janković about the benefits of being a peripatetic IP.

Service type: Locum Independent Prescriber (IP).

Name of pharmacy: Various pharmacies in Kent.

Name of pharmacist: Simranjit Jhita.

When did you start offering this service?

After starting my career in community pharmacy with a Saturday job I went on to qualify as a pharmacist in 2010 and completed my pre-reg in 2011, and then my IP training in late 2019.

Why did you start offering this service?

I became a pharmacy manager straight out of university, but after a few years I decided I wanted to dip my fingers into the locum world in order to travel around a bit more and see different patients.

I’d always wanted to become an IP, so I did that as well, with a specialism in respiratory conditions. I wasn’t sure how it would work being a locum but I thought at the very least I’m upskilling myself, and it’s ended up being really useful because as a locum I can bring a ranges to different services to all the pharmacies I work in.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

My IP knowledge has enabled me to offer patients extra help and advice in NMS and MURs. I can confidently prescribe for respiratory conditions, ENT and skin conditions, along with undertaking CV assessments.

Of course, Covid has put a spanner in the works when it comes to services. I had only just completed my IP a couple of months before it hit, but I decided I could use it as an opportunity to be more focused in how I help people to stay safe and well. I quickly implemented some changes in the pharmacies I could work at to protect staff members and those with respiratory diseases, setting up PPE for them before the official advice was even given out nationally. Covid has made me think outside the box in terms of dispensing – seeing each prescription lets me think of where the prescriber is coming from and give better advice to the patient.

One of the most common problems I encounter is patients who say their asthma is getting worse. Traditionally, if they came into a pharmacy with this the pharmacist would say “speak to your doctor”, but as an IP I can help them by doing an inhalation technique review, checking they are on the correct dose and medication, as well as giving OTC product advice. If I find an anomaly, I’ll question it with the patient, check their history and, if necessary, refer back to the doctor – although I find I hardly ever need to do that thanks to my IP capabilities.

I also see a lot of patients with sore throat and ear pain. More often than not, I find ear problems can be self-managed, or I can prescribe for ear pain, and of course signpost people to the appropriate clinic or to their GP if needs be. With sore throats a lot of people automatically ask for antibiotics, or at the moment want to know if they have Covid. I can explain why they don’t need an antibiotic, or suggest they rule out Covid by getting a test. I also created a comparison chart for the pharmacy showing the difference between Covid symptoms, flu and colds, so customers can see for themselves.

What, if any, training did you have to undergo?

After completing my IP in respiratory I’ve done more training for CV assessments, ENT, dermatology and phlebotomy. My plan is to keep adding more areas to my skillset, including mental health. This one has always been at the back of my mind, but the pandemic inspired me as I’ve noticed a lot more of my patients have prescriptions for mental health. Mental health is vital for us all and the pandemic has made it bigger than ever, so I want to be able to confidently advise on that.

Are there any opportunities to sell over the counter or prescription products during the consultation or after it?

Yes. I try to use my IP knowledge to give patients the best advice so they don’t need to go to the GP and can manage conditions themselves using OTC products if appropriate, or medicines I can prescribe.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

I use my IP skills in one way or another every day.

How much do you charge for the service?

There is no charge for any of the services at the moment, because I can’t examine patients or have a full consultation. I’ve lost a lot of family members to Covid and I want to be able to help, so not charging for services right now is also a way of doing that.

Would you recommend other locums consider training as IPs?

The future of community pharmacy is going to be more clinical and I wanted to be at the forefront of that and be the best I can be. I’d recommend being an IP for every pharmacist, even though it’s a bit more difficult for a locum to utilise it. My plan for the future is to set up regular clinics on the days that I’m in each pharmacy, so I can help patients in different locations access as many services as possible.

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